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In a recent D&D 3.5 session the party's chaotic evil druid gnome tried to sharpen his teeth to points so he could make bite attacks out of beast form. However I denied him the ability to do so because to my knowledge there is no mechanic that lets a character give themselves a natural weapon for free, and it would be rather unbalanced. However now that I think about it, if a character were to sharpen their teeth, it is logical that they would be able to bite with them, albeit rather ineffectively. So my question is, should I allow the player to give himself a bite attack, and if so what mechanics should it use?

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

Yes, by taking two feats from Heroes of Horror.

You'll need to grab Willing Deformity and Deformity(Teeth) and:

By filing your teeth to points and brutalizing your gums, you gain a hideous smile full of razor-sharp teeth that enable you to make a grisly bite attack.

Does what it says on the tin.

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Of course, you will sometimes accidentally do damage to yourself at random times (like when eating mutton in a pub) due to not having been born with razor-sharp teeth. – wjl May 26 '14 at 22:01
It would hurt just doing it in the first place. You have nerves in your teeth. – AlbeyAmakiir May 26 '14 at 23:36
On the plus side, it bags you ranks in Profession (Cannibal Dentistry)! – Gustav Bertram May 27 '14 at 7:13

"It is logical that they would be able to bite with them" - people already can bite others, it's used in real life fights sometimes. The ability to bite doesn't mean that they should get a 'bite attack' as defined by D&D rules.

If they want to bite someone, they already can, and no need for sharpening or otherwise. Make it an ineffective improvised unarmed melee attack, just as any other interesting action.

If they want a 'true bite attack', then sharpening isn't going to cut it - the main thing that distinguishes the bite of homo sapiens from a wolf isn't a bit sharper shape of teeth (simple steel dentures/false teeth would do that), but the huge difference in jaw muscles and skull shape that allows for an effective, much mor powerful bite. They can use magic to polymorph their head and jaws to be canine like, which could be a powerful story point if they wish to go that way.

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Human jaw strength is actually pretty decent. Figures I've seen show that we exhibit maybe half of the PSI of a dog or wolf, but higher levels than many of the larger primates. We don't have a lot of muscle compared to other animals, but what we have, we use very efficiently. – Sean Duggan May 27 '14 at 14:18

By RAW, your Druid only gets a natural bite attack if he casts a spell that gives him one, or Wild Shapes into a form that gives him one. There are probably countless magical means to get a bite attack (spells, polymorph, items) and pretty much zero mundane ways. If he tries to tell you he sharpened his teeth tell him great, then ask him what he did to strengthen his mandible. Did he lengthen his snout? Add a few muscles in his jaw? No? Then no natural bite attack.

By RAW, bite attacks deal Piercing, Bludgeoning AND Slashing damage. By RAI (which is the territory we'll need to embark in to develop a mundane bite attack on a gnome) we can infer this would require sharp teeth (piercing), a powerful crushing (bludgeoning) and the tearing of flesh (slashing). Your crazed gnome and his iron file are only a third of the way there.

Let's say he's fully committed though. He'll get whatever disfiguring and painful plastic surgery you require to get his bite. You can go a couple different ways from here. You can declare it just not possible and both move on from the whole experience. You could simply roleplay the experience and the consequences thereof, which could be a blast to play out if that's the kind of thing he's looking for (and let's face facts: he's playing a CE Gnome Druid who just filed his own teeth). You could design a feat called Horrific Mandibular Expansion or whatnot; costs a permanent penalty to Cha and/or Con (whatever you feel balances it beyond the feat tax), but now he's got a bite. Not a very good one (he's still a Small creature), but it's what he's envisioned for his character, so it could be worth the effort to explore how to go about it.

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I'd allow it as an improvised attack which deals nonlethal damage. (Or maybe a lethal attack at the -4 penalty for nonproficiency.)

I wouldn't allow it as a "natural attack" in the game sense of the term, since they have some unique advantages. (They can be made in addition to regular attacks, and can be buffed up quite nicely by several druid spells.) Only races with a level adjustment are generally granted such attacks.

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I see a couple of options:

  1. It's an improvised weapon. Let's say, 1d3 lethal damage, and has a 50% chance of breaking. Ouch.

  2. It's a special weapon called sharp teeth. It does 1d3 / 2x (piercing or slashing). That makes it (more or less) a small dagger that he carries in his mouth, that he doesn't need to ready.

  3. He takes the feats from Heroes of Horror, namely Willing Deformity and Deformity (Teeth). Personally, I'd give it to him with just the second feat, but that's just me. Because cannibal gnomes are cool.

You can choose to give him option 1 or 2 until he does option 3.

You should rule that until he does 3, this is neither a true bite attack nor a natural weapon, because nature did not file his teeth to sharp points! Even if he does file his teeth, he's not used to them until he takes the feat(s).

Oh, and if you don't have the book, definitely tell him he can only get the feat if he buys you the book. This is a nice way to dampen power gamer frothyness, but also stay supplied with new books. Win/win!

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... is the last paragraph serious? Smells like GM bribery to me. :S – Ernir May 26 '14 at 10:26
What's wrong with GM bribery? Seriously though, our house rule is "If the GM doesn't have the physical book, you can't have the feat." This is to ensure that the GM can look up the feats or rules for himself at the table if someone tries to pull a fast one. You can either buy him the book, or lend him your copy of your book for the duration of the campaign. – Gustav Bertram May 26 '14 at 12:59

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